During pregnancy, women experience many changes in their bodies. One common change is an increase in vaginal discharge. This discharge often changes in color and consistency throughout pregnancy.
What is pregnancy discharge?
Pregnancy discharge is fluid that comes from the vagina during pregnancy. It is made by the cervix and the walls of the vagina. This discharge is normally clear or white and does not have a strong odor. It helps keep the vagina clean and prevent infections.
Increased pregnancy discharge is caused by increased estrogen levels. Estrogen causes more blood flow to the vaginal area, which stimulates the production of discharge. The amount and consistency of discharge can vary greatly between women and even from day to day in the same woman.
Normal pregnancy discharge colors
Here are some common normal colors for pregnancy discharge:
- Clear/white: This thin, milky white discharge is normal throughout pregnancy. It should be mostly odorless.
- Pink: Some light spotting or pink discharge can happen early in pregnancy. This is from implantation bleeding when the embryo attaches to the uterus.
- Brown: Old blood or leftover spotting can appear brown. This is common after the period ends or after intercourse.
- Yellow/green: An increase in creamy white or yellowish discharge is normal. As long as it has no odor or itching, it is not concerning.
As long as the discharge is not itchy, smelly, or accompanied by redness or swelling, these colors are normal. It is smart to wear a panty liner if discharge increases.
Abnormal pregnancy discharge colors
Certain colors of pregnancy discharge can indicate an infection or other problem. Here are some abnormal colors to look out for:
- Gray: Gray, foul-smelling discharge could mean bacterial vaginosis or an STI.
- Green: Bright or dark green discharge is not normal and may be a sign of infection.
- Yellow: Thick, yellow, and/or clumpy discharge could indicate an infection.
- Red: Bloody discharge could indicate placenta previa or placental abruption.
If abnormal discharge is accompanied by itching, pain, or cramping, contact your doctor right away.
When to see a doctor
Contact your doctor or midwife if you notice any of the following:
- Bright red spotting or bleeding
- Heavy bleeding that soaks a pad
- Severe pelvic pain or cramping
- Foul-smelling or oddly colored discharge
- Itching, burning, or irritation around the vagina
- Signs of preterm labor like contractions, pelvic pressure, or low backache
While increased discharge is normal in pregnancy, abnormal discharge can sometimes indicate a problem that needs prompt medical attention.
Causes of abnormal colored discharge
Some potential causes of abnormal colored discharge during pregnancy include:
|Gray or whitish||Yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis|
|Yellow or green||Trichomoniasis or chlamydia infection|
|Bloody||Cervical polyps, cervicitis|
|Pink or brown||Cervical erosion, cervical dysplasia|
Infections like yeast, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and chlamydia often cause changes in discharge color and a foul or fishy odor. Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) need treatment as soon as possible to avoid pregnancy complications.
Cervical causes like polyps, erosion, and dysplasia can also affect discharge color. If abnormal discharge persists, further evaluation of the cervix might be recommended.
When discharge color changes
Here is an overview of how pregnancy discharge color typically changes during the different trimesters:
- More clear, white, or off-white discharge
- Possible light spotting after implantation
- Increased milky discharge around weeks 5-6 as breast milk glands develop
- Heavier, whiter discharge, especially around weeks 13-14
- Remains thick and white or creamy
- Clear discharge mixed with blood from cervical changes is common
- Increase in thin, watery discharge
- Pink or bloody show appears closer to labor
- More discharge before and after contractions start
Each woman’s discharge during pregnancy is unique. Tracking changes helps identify deviations from normal.
How to track discharge
To monitor pregnancy discharge color and stay aware of abnormalities, try these tips:
- Check discharge color and consistency regularly, especially before bed
- Note the color and amount on a calendar or in an app
- Compare discharge day-to-day and week-to-week
- Watch for any odd smells, itching, or irritation
- Seek medical advice sooner if you notice abnormal discharge
Recording discharge consistency, color changes, and other symptoms can help you and your doctor assess any issues.
Treatment for abnormal discharge
Treatments for abnormal pregnancy discharge depend on the cause. Some options may include:
- Yeast infection medication – Topical or oral antifungals
- Bacterial vaginosis antibiotics – Metronidazole or clindamycin
- STI antibiotics – Metronidazole, amoxicillin, azithromycin, etc.
- Steroid creams – For itching and swelling
- Cervical procedures – Biopsy, cryotherapy, LEEP
For moderate infections, low-risk medications can be used safely during pregnancy. More serious causes may require antibiotics or surgery after delivery.
How to prevent abnormal discharge
You can help prevent issues with abnormal vaginal discharge during pregnancy by:
- Practicing safe sex with condoms
- Not douching or using scented feminine products
- Wearing cotton underwear and avoiding tight clothes
- Avoiding prolonged dampness from swimming, pads/tampons
- Staying hydrated and eating yogurt with good bacteria
- Seeing your doctor right away for testing if you have symptoms
Good hygiene, hydration, and prompt treatment of any infections reduces the risk of developing abnormal discharge colors and odors.
When to call the doctor
Contact your healthcare provider right away if you have:
- Bleeding that soaks a pad in an hour
- Severe pelvic pain or cramps
- Bad-smelling or discolored discharge
- Flu-like feelings with fever, chills, muscle aches
- Regular contractions or other signs of preterm labor
While increased discharge is common and normal in pregnancy, abnormal discharge or bleeding with other symptoms could need prompt medical care.
Pregnancy causes many changes in vaginal discharge color and amount. While clear, white, or yellowish discharge is common and safe, abnormal colors like green, gray, or bloody discharge can sometimes indicate an infection or other problem needing treatment.
Tracking your discharge and being aware of changes is important. Contact your doctor right away if you have any abnormal discharge colors or any other worrying symptoms in pregnancy.
With prompt diagnosis and treatment as needed, abnormal pregnancy discharge can often be managed safely. Stay in touch with your healthcare provider about any concerns.
Focus on maintaining good vaginal hygiene and health during your pregnancy. This can help prevent development of infections and other causes of abnormal discharge.